My mental health is suffering a little this month.

I set myself up with that one. Let me explain.

On May 3 several of my colleagues received awards from the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors newspaper contest for their outstanding work in 2018. From layout and editorial writing, to best business story, we cleaned up.

But yours truly didn’t get a sniff. Not even a third-place certificate. My submissions didn’t match up to the competition. I lost.

After thinking about it, I don’t think it’s fair and my feelings are hurt. All of my hard work and long hours trying to cover this and that were ignored. I want a redo. Better yet, I think the Associated Press should do away with awards and issue an apology to not only me, but all those who entered the contest and didn’t place in the top three. Unless everyone is a winner, we should not recognize just a few.

Obviously, I am only trying to make a point after reading about Mason High School, near King’s Island in Ohio, recently announcing it will no longer honor a valedictorian or salutatorian, citing it promotes unhealthy competitiveness among students. It is suppose to improve students mental health by eliminating these honors.

This is not something new. Several schools, some locally, have gone this route where they recognize honor students, or top 10 grads, but no longer rank them or single out one or two. We can’t hurt their feelings.

What are we doing to the youth of this country? When did competing and trying to be the best become a bad thing? Why are we all suppose to settle for mediocrity, or not try to be better than the other guy?

This is one example of why I have always been against the whole class sports culture in high school, where we have four and five team champions a year instead of just one. Fewer people care about the outcome — just look at the tournament attendance over the last 20 seasons minus the Romeo Langford years at New Albany.

I try to keep up with state basketball tournaments, but I have absolutely no idea who the 2A state basketball champion was in 2002. Or the 1A, 3A and 4A for that matter. But, back in the day, I could tell you the ONE team that won Indiana’s state championship. I think Silver Creek’s boys’ team proved this year it could play with any team in the state.

I know more kids get to experience playing in a final four, and I appreciate that aspect of class tournaments. But are we saying just because your school is smaller, you are less and it’s unfair for you to play against this team? Is that really better for the kids?

And who doesn’t love some of these youth leagues where we don’t keep score? Everybody wins. Everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon. I don’t get it. Teach kids to compete, to be their best. Teach them to beat the other guy and if they lose, shake their hand and do better next time. Don’t water down competition just because Little Johnny might get his feelings hurt for not receiving an award.

I call it the softening of America. It is happening all across our society. It’s like we are expected to apologize for excelling or being better than someone else — whether it’s school or work related.

While the first few paragraphs of this column were my attempt at humor, part of it is true. I was not happy that many of my co-workers came home from Indianapolis with awards and I did not. I have won in the past and wanted to get that mental boost that comes from colleagues who say my work was the best, or at least second best.

But I am not blaming judges for not winning or ignoring co-workers who came home with plaques. They did great and no one is prouder of them than I am, because I know how hard they work.

Not saying I don’t strive to do my best with each story, but in 2018, my work didn’t turn any heads. I need to pick up the effort and do better this year. I need to use the rejection as motivation and give myself a kick in the rear.

What I don’t need is for the Associated Press to change the rules and give everyone a certificate for participating. That is not how it works, in contests or in life. There are going to be times when you are told your effort was just not good enough, or another applicant for a job was better than you. And we should use that as motivation, not to make things easier, so we don’t get our feelings hurt or feel extra pressure.

I love it when people are recognized for excelling and being their best. Isn’t that what we are all striving for in life?

— Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Reach him at 812-206-2155 and chris.morris@newsandtribune.com.